4 Types of Workouts that Improve your Running

It is always fun to try to improve yourself. Running is a great sport because it allows you to see concrete improvements in race times as you get faster. Once you get a taste of success, you keep coming back! Here are some of our favorite workouts to incorporate to get faster & how to do them!

Easy runs are the corner stone of all training plans. We recommend 80% of your weekly mileage be done at a pace 90-150 seconds per mile slower than a recent 5k race pace.

Our Favorite way to track pace is using a GPS watch. Our recommendation for a watch with the most features at the lowest price

1- Strides/Super Speed

Most long distance runner’s do not spend any time at these top speeds. This type of workout will be done at your 1 mile pace or faster.

Short bouts of speed to trigger muscle recruitment and connections in the brain. By creating & strengthening the connections from the brain to the muscles, your body will be able to activate more muscle fibers in future workouts.

The benefit will keep an athlete sharp and training to their full potential by recruiting as much of the muscle fibers as possible. These strides are often ignored by athletes but play an important role in the brain/muscle connection gateway! Focus on form and power.

How to: 100-200 meters at faster than 5k pace with a full 2+ min recovery between

When to:  The day(s) before a workout or race after an easy run, during offseason, before a workout sessions begins

2- VO2MAX 

These workouts build strength AND speed. These are the types of workouts most runners think of when they picture ‘speed work’ (800s, 1000s, 400s).

These are intense workouts and cause major stress on the body. Full recovery is required for days after to allow for adaptions and recovery too occur.

How to: 1-5 min intervals of work around 5k-10k pace ranges with 2-3 min recovery between. These can also be done as hill work stressing the same system at 5k-10k effort.

When to: If you are gearing up for a 5k or 10k these will be a weekly occurrence. In the thick of marathon training, these may trim down to allow room for other workouts that are more marathon specific.

3-  Threshold Runs

Running at Threshold trains the cardiovascular & muscular system to utilize oxygen while simultaneously removing waste products such as carbon dioxide & lactic acid (image a bath running with the drain open.  If you run ‘faster’ than your body can remove the waste, then you are defeating the purpose of the tempo run. We want to “toe the line”. It’s like black jack- you it’s better to be a little under pace than over! 

You can read more about tempos/threshold here

How to: Threshold is usually the pace you can race at for 60 min. Most runners it’s around 20-30 seconds slower than their 5k pace. We have longer intervals here with shorter rest. Shorter rest allows us to stress the correct system and get a better benefit. If you need longer rest between or cannot hit the pace, chances are you are not running at your correct threshold pace. You also do not want to ‘race’ these workouts. After every mile, you should feel you can speed up by 20 seconds per mile if you were racing.

Examples of threshold workouts:

5 x 1 mile with 60 seconds rest

2 x 15-20 min with 120-60 seconds rest

When to: Thresholds are great sessions for mid-distance through marathon distance. One threshold session per week is great.

4- Long Runs

Long runs develop an increase in capillary networks from the lungs & leg muscles. This means blood & oxygen can be transported better, so you can use the oxygen more efficiently. Running is an aerobic sport and the long run stresses your aerobic system.

You can read more about the benefits of long runs here

How to: Most long runs should be between 25-30% of your weekly mileage. If you are running 25 miles per week, you can get an idea for how long your long run should be by (25 * 30%= 7.5 miles). It is best to not run over 33% of your weekly mileage in one run to reduce the chance of injury. If you do a lot of aerobic cross training (biking, swimming, elliptical) & have a strong background in the sport, you may be able to get away with a different long run %. Long runs should be done at an aerobic pace or ‘easy’ pace.

What about marathon pace long runs?

Marathon pace is an aerobic pace. It is near the top end of your aerobic paces. The faster you run the higher the intensity. Long runs already put a significant amount of stress on the body. Adding in an additional high intensity effort around marathon pace adds additional stress. This is great for very experienced runners working on racing a marathon. Even then, most plans will not do more than 6-10 marathon pace miles within a 16-20 mile long run. Each athlete is different. Make sure you follow a plan that makes sense for you!


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